St Helena Hospice in Essex are supporting the mental health of frontline staff during the Covid-19 pandemic with a designated ‘wobble room’, a private space staff can visit at any time of the day to unwind.
The global pandemic is a worrying time for everyone, but particularly for frontline workers in NHS and hospice settings who are putting their physical health at risk to support others, leading to increased pressure on their mental health. The aim of the space is to give staff members somewhere they can go to ‘have a wobble’ if necessary.
Decorated by members of St Helena’s complementary therapies and chaplaincy teams, it’s intended to be a relaxing and comforting place for staff to go and take some time to themselves. The room has stress-busting items like pampering products, bubble wrap to relieve tension, comfort pebbles and sweet treats, as well as relaxing music and mindfulness colouring.
The room is dimly lit by salt lamps and aromatherapy oils provide a calming fragrance. Here staff can practice breathing techniques and there’s a positivity wall which they are encouraged to add good news and support messages to.
The idea for the room was conceived after St Helena agreed with the local NHS to act as the lead organisation coordinating all out of hospital end of life care activity in north east Essex for the duration of the pandemic.
This new way of working is not just new to St Helena but also to their community colleagues and primary care colleagues.
St Helena’s Director of Care, Jo Tonkin explained: “For St Helena staff, this means that we have changed much of their working pattern. We’ve changed their office bases, we’ve changed the teams that they work in, and we’ve also changed their shift patterns.
“They’ve all responded marvellously to this new challenge, but that creates stress and anxiety for staff. It’s a different process; it’s a different routine, and change can be challenging for people at the best of times, but when it’s managed in a very swift fashion to respond to something such as the COVID-19 pandemic it can create differing levels of anxiety in different staff members.
“We have therefore tried to support staff with various opportunities for advice, guidance, one-to-one supervision, support through our chaplaincy service, and other issues such as mindfulness.”
St Helena is also helping to boost the morale of their teams by sharing comments and messages of support from donors on their internal intranet – Facebook for Workplace – and by displaying them as posters in staff areas. Plans are also in place to start a ‘Dear Nurse’ campaign on social media, encouraging supporters to send messages of support which will be shared with the teams.
As staff adapt their roles to meet the unmet need, many are spending less time with their families and some have even chosen to isolate from their household to minimise risk to them as they continue to work. In response, St Helena is sending letters to families and creating certificates for the children of staff, highlighting their parents as ‘hidden heroes’.
Over the last few weeks, many kind donations have been received to help boost staff morale, including Easter Eggs, Domino’s Pizza, Shaken Udder milkshakes, and Avon products, all of which have help to put smiles on people’s faces.
Laura Shukla, Head of Clinical Operations at St Helena, who volunteered to become the organisations Mental Health First Aider last spring, said: “Our staff are experiencing mixed feelings and emotions surrounding the current Coronavirus pandemic and this will be impacting on their mental health both at home and at work.
“Staff can make use of these new mechanisms alongside accessing support from me as the mental health first aider, local support agencies such as Colchester Mind and nationally from avenues like the NHS staff helpline.”
For more information visit St Helena Hospice